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Psychol Aging. 1995 Dec;10(4):527-39.

Differential effects of aging on memory for content and context: a meta-analysis.

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Department of Psychology, University of Memphis, Tennesee 38152, USA.


The authors reviewed the evidence of age differences in episodic memory for content of a message and the context associated with it. Specifically, the authors tested a hypothesis that memory for context is more vulnerable to aging than memory for content. In addition, the authors inquired whether effort at encoding and retrieval and type of stimulus material moderate the magnitude of age differences in both memory domains. The results of the meta-analysis of 46 studies confirmed the main hypothesis: Age differences in context memory are reliably greater than those in memory for content. Tasks that required greater effort during retrieval yielded larger age differences in content but not in context memory. The greatest magnitude of age differences in context memory was observed for those contextual features that were more likely to have been encoded independently from content. Possible mechanisms that may underlie age differences in context memory-attentional deficit, reduced working memory capacity, and failure of inhibitory processing are discussed.

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